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Downtown Hagerstown pizzeria closing its doors

Rocky's N.Y. Pizza owners met with city officials to discuss 'financial relationship' with city

April 04, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com
  • John Lestitian, the city of Hagerstown's director of community and economic development; Rocky's N.Y. Pizza owner Vinnie DiCola; and city spokeswoman Erin Wolfe talk Wednesday inside the pizza shop in downtown Hagerstown. Wolfe confirmed Thursday that the business will be closing on or before Sunday, April 7.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Rocky’s Pizza & Cafe Napoli, a longtime business in downtown Hagerstown, will close its doors by Sunday, a city official confirmed Thursday.

Hagerstown spokeswoman Erin Wolfe said the city, which owns the building that houses the pizza shop at 40 N. Potomac St., recently had a meeting with officials of the business to discuss its “financial relationship” with the city.

The business officials told the city that they would be willing to vacate the premises, Wolfe said, although she refused to elaborate on the financial situation that exists between the two parties.

Wolfe and John Lestitian, the city’s director of economic and community development, were seen talking to Rocky’s owner Vinnie DiCola at the shop on Wednesday.

DiCola said Thursday he attained a loan through the city to reopen his business downtown when his original shop, which had operated on Public Square for about 25 years, was gutted by an August 2008 fire.

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He did not want to disclose the full amount of the loan, but said he still owes the city $30,000.

DiCola said a document he signed with city officials this week will allow him to walk away “scott free” and the city will forgive the unpaid portion of the loan.

The terms of the agreement included the requirement that he leave 90 percent of the pizza shop’s equipment at the location when he vacates by Sunday, DiCola said.

“The city might be within its rights, but it’s unconscionable to give this man five days to vacate his shop,” John Salvatore, DiCola’s attorney, said Thursday. “This flies in the face of the city being friendly to businesses.”

Salvatore would not comment on whether legal action would be taken in an attempt to forestall the closing of Rocky’s.

According to DiCola, the loan was granted under the administration of then-mayor Robert E. Bruchey II.

DiCola said he was told the loan would be converted to a grant if his restaurant stayed open at the Potomac Street location for five years.

“Basically, the last couple years — economy’s really bad, I’m having a hard time making ends meet here, the business is really slow and it’s not feasible downtown,” DiCola said, noting he has fallen behind on his loan payments to the city.

DiCola said he had not made a payment on the loan since September 2011.

“I was told by the old administration that I could stay here free until things got better,” DiCola said. “And then the new administration came in and they didn’t take that into consideration.”

About a dozen patrons were dining at Rocky’s on Thursday afternoon.

“I’ve been helping people, I’ve been feeding people for the last 37 years, and it’s in my heart,” DiCola said. “God put me on this earth for a certain purpose and some people just don’t see that.”

Speaking Thursday at the monthly meeting of Citizens for the Protection of Washington County, Mayor David S. Gysberts said the city is in the process of renovating the building housing Rocky’s. The city will have invested $900,000 in the building when the renovations are complete, he said. 

Further details were not available from city officials Thursday afternoon.

Staff writers C.J. Lovelace and Don Aines contributed to this story.

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